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Caritas Launches Appeal for Sahel (West Africa) Food Crisis

13 March 2012

Caritas Launches Appeal for Sahel (West Africa) Food Crisis

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has launched a Special Appeal and pledged NZ$50,000 towards averting severe hunger and deaths in the Sahel region of West Africa.

‘An estimated 13 million people are in grave danger,’ says Caritas Director Julianne Hickey. ‘This has been brought on by severe drought, poor harvests, and rising food prices – made worse by regional conflict.’

‘Drought is a natural phenomenon, but famine is caused by human action – or inaction,’ she says. Hundreds of thousands of people died needlessly in the Horn of Africa last year because the international community took too long to respond. Eventually, concerted action by humanitarian agencies helped avert a far greater disaster in most of the affected countries. ‘There is no excuse for people to die of hunger in our world today,’ says Ms Hickey.

The international Caritas network is providing a coordinated response across five of the most severely affected countries in the Sahel – Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania. In Niger alone, about 5.5 million people face hunger because of drought. Without assistance, communities are being forced to rely on traditional coping mechanisms. Some of these practices can make things worse in the long-term, such as burning trees to make charcoal or selling-off of livestock.

Caritas is distributing essential food to the most vulnerable; seeds and agricultural inputs for planting; and setting up both Food for Work and Cash for Work programmes. Young children, and pregnant and breast-feeding women, are the focus of special food assistance. The Caritas network is also establishing emergency water, hygiene and sanitation facilities in Niger, as thousands of refugees flee fighting in northern Mali between the country’s army and a rebel group.

‘Intervention now will help prevent a catastrophic event such as we saw in the Horn of Africa,’ says Ms Hickey.

Caritas Humanitarian Programmes Officer Mark Mitchell has just returned from Kenya, where he saw the difference that good, effective relief programmes made after last year’s Horn of Africa drought.

‘Lessons have been learnt from the Horn of Africa,’ says Mr Mitchell, ‘in terms of responding quicker and noticing the warning signs and thresholds of hardship earlier.’

‘I’ve seen the importance of Food for Work schemes in putting in place better water supplies, using better collection methods and improving access to water in the long term.’

Donations to Caritas for the Sahel crisis can be made by:

Phoning 0800 22 10 22 to make credit card donations or
Donating online using a credit card at www.caritas.org.nz or
Posting to Caritas, PO Box 12193, Thorndon, Wellington 6144, New Zealand.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 168 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

For more information visit www.caritas.org.nz.

ENDS

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